illustrator Will Beck is based in the
They were mainly felt tip pen-drawn battles, created with accompanying sound effects, on computer paper my dad brought home from the office,” says Will Beck of his artistic upbringing. “Visiting art galleries, museums and stately homes and reading comics such as 2000 AD fed my imagination as well. I think hearing the BBC radio version of The Lord of the Rings was one of the earlier things that really fired my love for fantasy and myth before I’d even read the book.”
Today Will is an aspiring illustrator, and winner of our first Reader Challenge for his New Horizons image. “I’ve been dedicating myself more and more to digital art for the last two or three years,” he comments. “The reason I really wanted to explore digital painting was that it freed me from those worries and constraints I’d previously had about the completion of a final image – I often preferred my sketch work to the finished piece. It’s really been in this last year, though, inspired by ImagineFX’s arrival, that I’ve pushed my skills further and started to properly look at the amazing fantasy and sci-fi art that exists on the web.”
As a developing illustrator in a cut-throat world, Will is doing things the right way – building up a body of work and a raft of sketchbooks. He explains what these images and sketches are being populated with: “My head is full of ideas and images from stories, films, comics, newspapers, art, magazines, music, architecture and computer games, but I try not to just regurgitate these sources. Thematically, things I’ve come back to over the years have been Michael Moorcock and Gene Wolfe-inspired fantasy adventure themes and gritty, often post-apocalypse sci-fi settings. There are many different subjects I still want to try, though.”
He describes his working process: “Often a picture will start from a thumbnail doodle in my sketchbook from my imagination. I’ll then see what relevant reference I have in books, magazine cuttings or photographs I’d taken that can help me depict the idea. If the concept is still fairly vague at this stage, I’ll brainstorm ideas or write a paragraph of a story to flesh it out. Then, depending on the nature of the image, I’ll draw and draw compositions and character designs on paper in a quick and scribbly fashion until things are really gelling together and the thoughts behind the picture are strong enough. I’ll then scan one of these sketches to use as the canvas of an image.”
For Will, it’s a question of when you want to make those initial design decisions: on paper or on the screen. “I’ve found it’s quicker for me to use pencil and paper with the occasional ink or watercolour washes at the start,” he says. “The way I use a computer basically follows my traditional art habits – that is broad colours, followed by colour washes to create form, then highlights, and then re-drawing back over.”
Will’s list of favourite artists reads like a Who’s Who of fantasy, with Ryan Church, Feng Zhu, Dave McKean, Brian Froud, Alan Lee, Ray Harryhausen and Rodney Matthews all getting a mention.